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Laura Gummerman, author for A Beautiful Mess, had dreams of a new kitchen that were too far in the future. She was in the process of saving for a big renovation, but she couldn’t wait to make small, budget-friendly changes that'd make the space a little nicer in the meantime. That’s where the idea to paint her backsplash came in.

“Elsie Larson, the co-founder of A Beautiful Mess, mentioned that painting the tile could be just what was needed,” Gummerman remembers. “I forgot I had painted a tile floor in my laundry room at my last house and loved how it came out. So I thought I would try it again.”

It might seem like a strange idea to paint tiles, especially when they’re available in such a wide variety of shades. But consider this: It costs an average of $1,000 to professionally install a new backsplash, according to HomeAdvisor, but about $250 to roll a fresh coat of paint over the ones that are already in place. So Laura took on this DIY project, and decided that her brown backsplash would soon turn green.

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“The green seemed happy and bright, so I went with that choice, since the kitchen was pretty dark,” she adds.

If this idea has crossed your mind and you’re wondering how to choose the right tile paint for your project, look to Gummerman’s experience as a sterling example. Here's how she did it.

The Tools

Scotch Painter's Tape

Scotch Painter's Tape

Of all the tools required for this DIY, the type of paint Gummerman used is likely the most important. She chose silicone epoxy paint for the job, and the decision was simple: This particular paint is approved for food service, is resistant to chemicals, and can stand up against heat of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also known as an ideal paint for the high-traffic areas of kitchens and bathrooms, since it can also be used on countertops and tubs. But Gummerman also mentions two downsides: There might not be enough available shades to suit your palette, and the can comes with a formidable smell.

“The color choices from the paint company I used were more limited than I would have liked,” she notes. “Also, it’s definitely not a non-toxic option, even with the respirator the fumes were overwhelming when painting. So if you are wanting a more natural option, you may have to look elsewhere.”

Gummerman picked the “Clean Green” shade from the Marine and Pool Paint Warehouse, and paired it with the following.

To Give the Backsplash a Smooth, Even Appearance, She Used:

  • etching primer
  • etching cleaner
  • paint accelerator
  • leveling thinner
  • sandpaper
  • 1/4-inch nap paint rollers
  • natural hair brushes

To Avoid Rogue Paint Splatters and Drips, She Used:

  • drop cloth
  • painter's tape

For Her Own Safety During This Project, She Used:

  • rubber gloves
  • respirator
  • goggles

How to Paint Tile

While this project can be completed in a weekend, it does require some skill. For starters, you’ll have to properly vent the kitchen and use precautions to shield against the fumes. From there, it all comes down to a few simple steps.

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Laura Gummerman

Prep the counters and sand the surface.

Start the project by covering the countertops with the drop cloth. Next, sand the tile in even, steady strokes. “I used a medium-grade sandpaper to lightly sand the tile to remove any loose grout or buildup,” she says.

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Laura Gummerman

Clean the tiles.

Carefully apply the etching cleaner to the backsplash with a scrub, working it into the tiles in 10-minute spurts. “Be sure to wear a respirator, gloves, goggles, and long sleeves,” Gummerman adds. When that’s complete, wipe down the surface with wet paper towels to remove the cleaner. At this point, Gummerman let the tiles completely air dry over a full day.

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Laura Gummerman

Put on the primer.

Gummerman notes that this stage of the process should be done in sections, since the primer and paint are tacky. Apply a thin coat of primer to the backsplash, beginning in the corners, with a natural-hair brush. She also suggests adding a small amount of thinner to the mixture, in order to make it as smooth as possible.

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Laura Gummerman

Apply the paint.

As soon as the primer is dry, use a roller to apply the topcoat of paint. “I added a thinner and paint hardener to the topcoat,” Gummerman notes, which will make the paint smoother and dry faster—but it only gives you about 30 minutes of hands-on time.

“You have to work quickly and in small sections when painting because the paint dries fast,” she says. “If you go over a section that’s already started to dry, you can peel the paint right off.” Once the first coat is dry, add a second one to seal the color.

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